Meet the SHEROES - Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal
Tell us about yourself.
I come from a Gujarati background with a rich culinary tradition and have married into a Garwhali family. I actually do not have a culinary back ground or one of journalism. I’ve been an arts student, animator, travel consultant, copywriter, illustrator, product specialist, a candle maker before I found my calling as a gastronomy writer & went on to becoming a food stylist and then a consultant. Today I am the owner of APB Cook Studio Company. I was however a passionate cook! I have self taught myself in both the fields of food writing and that of cooking.
I began to explore the world of food entirely inadvertently. I began my career in food as a food writer. I do not have any qualifications in journalism or cooking. I was a literature and fine arts student at school, went on to study animation and then worked in the travel industry for 2 years. I discovered food writing while on a sabbatical after I had my first child. As the mother of a toddler I was pretty much confined to my home and the internet was my lifeline to the world. I spent hours surfing the net, reading about all sorts of things and experimenting with blogging. It was at this time when I was looking for information (on pickles I think) that I discovered a site that was home to people who revelled in food. I spent weeks dithering around, lurking through its forums, scribbling a line or two here and there until I finally worked up the courage to put up an essay on Uttarakhandi Cuisine. The cuisine in question being unknown, my post got a lot of attention and my inherent talent for research and writing must have come through because I got a lot of praise. The post brought me a job offer with a local gastronomy magazine and made me realize that perhaps there was a career for me in food writing. I was a gastronomy writer for 4 years thereafter, adding food styling to my repertoire and growing into a columnist and an author. Then my career took another turn, as I was approached to consult with a food consortium from Italy. It brought new opportunities and I set up A Perfect Bite Consulting about 4 years ago with an aim to share my love for food. From modest beginnings, out of a studio office in my home and providing food focused editorial content to a variety of reputed international print and digital publications, we today provide consulting services to companies in the F&B and Horeca sectors (food importers, suppliers, retailers, and restaurants), to help them connect with their customers.
What was the idea behind APB Cook Studio?
As a family, Shekhar and I would spend our free time, pottering around in the kitchen, baking and cooking and sitting down to these delicious, homemade yet gourmet meals. We would watch Masterchef Australia; envious of the professional, fully stocked kitchens, wishing we would get a chance to cook in such a space. At that time, I was also conducting several cooking classes in different locations and began to dream of a space dedicated to culinary training; a place where you have the equipment, utensils, ingredients and training to cook up a fantastic meal. We wanted to create a space where people came and learned to cook or prepared meals with their families in an inspiring environment. And after being around for 2 years, it is still a thrill to see the joy on people’s faces when they learn something new.
A Perfect Bite - Cook Studio - is a space dedicated to the love and appreciation food and cooking. Something I wanted to create almost from the very beginning of my food career. And it came back to the fore recently thanks to many reasons. But one of the main catalysts was Shekhar, my husband, getting into the kitchen.
Inspired by Masterchef Australia Season 2 Shekhar got bitten by the baking bug. He began with cakes and cookies but when I put my foot down after a while because we really did not need to eat that much sugar or processed flour he started to do all sorts of breads. Most days he wakes up earlier than all of us to bake bread or muffins, when he worked he would come home and prepped everything the night before. As a mom (especially one who cannot make bread - even chapattis I am disastrous at it) I am thankful that my kids eat healthy homemade bread most days.
Living in Mumbai meant busy lives, work pressures often meant letting things get de prioritised, like time for oneself, with one’s kids, cooking. Eating out was an easy solution to all of these issues. No time to exercise - worry about it another day. No time to cook - eat out. Guilt tripping that we don’t spend enough time with our kids - take them to eat out (mostly junk because that’s what kids like).
But with both of us cooking. We found that cooking at home, can also be a solution. By cooking at home, we cut out a host of unhealthy processed rubbish from our diets. Over the last year or so, we’ve gradually moved more and more towards making our own food at home. It tastes better, reduces preservative intake, is more nutritious. It does take time, but once you get used to it, most food preparation doesn’t take much more time than going to the store, buying it, taking it home, popping it out of the package, and following the directions.
And one of the easiest ways to spend time with kids is to get them involved in cooking or baking projects. Try stirring up a batch of oat muffins and let them decide what flavours they fancy or do whole grain pizza from scratch and let them pick toppings. Granted it is messy and can get annoying but they learn more about food than telling them will teach them (and make for great photo ops!). I remember this one time when I brought home magenta Dragon fruit, Shekhar turns around and tells our son, Aman “if you do one thing in life, make sure you find a life partner that widens your horizons”. We are all on a delicious journey of discovery together in our home. And somewhere along the line in all of this I realised that we had been creating so many lovely memories together. And it was because we were together! That’s what we want to bring to the studio. A place for people to connect over food.
And in December or so of 2011 when Shekhar was considering quitting work we were cooking dinner using mostly ingredients from farmers mkt. He had made bread, and I had done Pepper Mushrooms, fig salad and a pasta. We kept tasting each other’s cooking and congratulating ourselves on how well it had turned out as the kids ran around taking bites of this and that. That’s when Shekhar turns to me and says “We make beautiful things together”. And that’s when we decided that we wanted to put all of this passion into doing something together. Making a beautiful space for people to come and cook together and bond over food.
APB - Cook Studio was my dream, but it would have stayed one if not for him. Shekhar often likens himself to the Architect who builds foundations and structures and me to the interior decorator who makes his creations beautiful. He bakes the bread, the cake makes the pasta and the pizza base and I cook. His pizza, my topping; his breads, my butters and jams... his pasta, my sauces, his cakes my frostings and toppings. Shekhar and I have often been described as the ‘Perfect’ team and more so than ever, I am sure APB would not have happened without him.
What is the best recipe to be a successful entrepreneur?
There is no real tried and tested formula because every person’s situation is so very different. However some general principles remain the same. Being an entrepreneur means all equations are bound to change. Life as you and your family know it will not be the same again. Accept that there will be no holidays (you’ll always be at work in your head). You will need the support of your core group like never before. For women especially mothers, it will mean you are constantly juggling work and kids and guilt! Make a sound, well-researched business plan but also remember that a business plan works as a structure. You could dot every ‘I’ and cross every ‘T’ and still not succeed. Or you could float a paper boat and conquer the world! There are no maps or blueprints to success. But do create a plan ‘B’ and a plan ‘C’. Also we all try to be superwomen and end up getting burnt out. Embrace your humanity, recognize your strengths and weaknesses and work with that. Remember money will be recovered but time and opportunities once passed won’t. Recognize genuine offers of help and take advantage of them. There is no loss of pride in accepting help. But never forget to pay it forward whenever and wherever you can.
What is your message to all the SHEROES India?
As a SHERO you are your biggest asset. There is no family, or business without you. Recognize that and look after yourself. Sleep on time, eat healthy, exercise, switch off periodically, plan for and take breaks. Every time you do, you will come back revitalized. You will approach the things that drain you with new energy.